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23rd May 2019

Today is the 20th anniversary of WWE star Owen Hart’s tragic death

Wil Jones


May 23rd 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of beloved WWE wrestler Owen Hart. Hart was tragically killed after falling from the rafters during the 1999 Over The Edge pay-per-view event.

Owen Hart came from the legendary Canadian Hart dynasty of professional wrestlers. Owen was the youngest of promoter and trainer Stu Hart’s twelve children, all of whom would become involved in the wrestling business in some way.

Stu Hart ran the notorious Dungeon school, where the likes of Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Chris Benoit, Dynamite Kid, the British Bulldog, Jushin Thunder Liger, Edge, Christian and Mark Henry all trained. Owen did not initially intend to go into wrestling, but eventually joined the family business and learnt his trade at the Dungeon.

Owen would wrestle for his father’s Stampede promotion in his native Canada, and travel the world, appearing on ITV’s World of Sport in the UK and participating in several tours for New Japan Pro Wrestling during the 1980s.

After brief stints in both WWF and WCW during the early 1990s, he would rejoin WWF in 1991, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Initially, he joined the New Hart Foundation, alongside his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart.

But he would soon start his career-defining feud with his older brother Bret. The two would have their first encounter at Wrestlemania X in 1994 – that match is still considered by many fans to be an all-time classic.

Later memorable storylines for Owen would include teaming with the British Bulldog (another Hart Dungeon graduate), making amends with Bret to reform the Hart Foundation, and joining the Nation of Domination faction with D’Lo Brown, The Godfather, Mark Henry and a young wrestler by the name of Dwayne Johnson.

In 1998, he returned to the character of The Blue Blazer, a superhero gimmick he had used earlier in his career. As part of that persona, he would sometimes use an elaborate ring entrance, which involved him being lowered into the arena from the rafters via a grapple line.

This was the case at Over The Edge on May 23rd, 1999, where the quick-release mechanism on Owen’s harness was somehow triggered, and he fell to his death. The event was being broadcast live, though a pre-taped vignette was being shown at the time so his death was not shown to television viewers. Jim Ross would then break character to tell the home audience that what happened was not part of a storyline or the script.

Ross would announce later in the show to viewers that Owen had died, but those in the arena were not told.

Owen Hart was just 34 when he died, but he is still a beloved fan favourite. His matches continue to be enjoyed by fans both old and new, and his fellow wrestlers and colleagues have repeatedly stated what a nice guy he was in real life. He remains sorely missed to this day.